The other weekend, Ngan and I were invited to a Chinese wedding party by one of the elevator attendants at our apartment building. Receiving the invitation was a surprise, but we were honored to have been invited. The elevator attendant, his wife and their daughter (the bride) all speak Chinese (I believe it’s Cantonese) with each other, but they are also bilingual and speak Vietnamese with others.
Now, if you’ve spent any time in Vietnam, you’ve been to a wedding party, and I was expecting something similar as we drove through the ever-narrowing streets towards our destination in Chinatown. The facade of the restaurant was very low key, and upon arrival I realized I’d driven past in numerous times without noticing it. As the party progressed, there were a few key differences between Vietnamese and Chinese weddings:
Vietnamese people are known for being less than punctual, and this has it’s pros and cons. However, this wedding party was something else. The time on the invitation said 6, and we arrived about 6:15. However, the party (i.e. the serving of the food) didn’t start until after 7:30! I was very hungry and grateful for the food when it finally came.
Normally at a Vietnamese wedding party, there is an MC who talks for a bit at the beginning. The MC at this Chinese wedding party just had to read everything in two languages.
All of the songs were in Chinese. Singers would come and go and guests would run to the stage and give them cash tips, which were usually passed back to the three-person band. After their set, the singers would leave the party (and maybe head to another wedding party?).
Not one single person at the wedding wore an ao dai. For those who aren’t aware, the ao dai is considered traditional Vietnamese dress, especially for women, and it always makes an appearance at weddings, either being worn by the bride and/or groom and also by plenty of guests. At this particular wedding party, it was like the people wanted to make the statement: “We are not Vietnamese.”
One distinctly Chinese dish that we were served during the party featured abalone. I have only seen dishes with abalone at Chinese restaurants before and had never tasted it. It was very rich.
6. Lucky money during the party
At a Vietnamese wedding, when the MC is finished, there is usually loud music and it is not interrupted until the party is over. However, at this Chinese wedding the band stopped, chairs were set up on stage and the bridge emerged wearing some traditional Chinese garb. Older people sat in the chairs and the bride and groom would offer them cups of tea. After the older people sipped the tea, they handed the bride and groom red envelopes of lucky money (for Vietnamese people, lucky money only makes an appearance during Tet, the lunar new year).
We couldn’t stick around til the end of the party, but it was a very unique experience and I’m glad we were able to attend.